Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner: Build bridges, not walls!

The Maze Runner
by James Dashner
Delacorte Press: New York, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-385-73794-4

A boy comes to in a rising elevator.  He is disoriented, scared, and clueless as to where, or who, he is.  He has no memory from life before, even of how old he is, only that his name is Thomas.  When he disembarks, he finds himself on what appears to be a small working farm, populated only with other teenage boys.  This, as he comes to find out, is the Glade.  The Gladers have lived here for two years and also have no memories prior to their own arrivals.  They have, however, discovered that the Glade is located in the middle of a giant, treacherous maze, whose walls shift daily, enclosing them inside nightly, protecting them from the monsters that lurk beyond. But things are changing; the first ever girl arrives a day after Thomas, in a coma, but clutching a note that simply says “She’s the last one.  Ever.”  Thomas, begins feel like he remembers things about the maze, and the mysterious girl, though he can’t fully recall what.  He’ll have to, because the Gladers are facing a whole new set of challenges: they’ve been cut off from all supplies, and the walls have stopped shifting to protect them at night.  Will they find a way out of the maze, and discover who they are and why they are even inside it before it is too late? Because of some violence and death, this book is recommended to middle school boys, and will have appeal to fans of The Hunger Games.

Book talk hook: (Yeah, I'm back on the sauce.  For now.) Briefly summarize the disorientation experienced by Thomas, asking the group to close their eyes and imagine that feeling.  Then continue with a brief summary, emphasis on the danger, excitement of trying to find a way out, and the shock at having a girl show up, bearing that super showstopper of a confusing message.  Hook, line, stinkers!

Review continued:

When this book came out a million years ago in 2009, I thought  “Self, that book sounds cool, I’ll take a look.” Please check today’s date.  Yup.  I KNOW. Even worse?  I have totally recommended this blindly to kids who came looking for readalikes to the Hunger Games.  I’m sorry, you guys.  I’m a fraud.  Shame on me…NO MORE.  Because I finally did it! I read it!  It was fun, and also incredibly quick.  I read it after finishing Catch-22 for a whole month, and I have to admit the whole time I was all “Font, why you so big?” And then I remembered why I like that about the YA market when I finished it two days later. 

Long story long, I read it, I liked it, and I’m glad I recommended it to kids.  It’s a fun book, with mysterious and dark themes, but also populated with lighter moments of friendship between boys, and finding levity in moments of hardship.  I enjoyed the excessive cursing without using our cursewords (Snaps for creativity and sticking it to the man, James Dashner.  I see what you did there, and I liked it.), because HELLO, have you heard teenage boys talk?  They use more swears than adjectives.  I also think this will be an easy sell to reluctant reader boys in the middle school grades, possibly even a little bit younger.  It’s not hard to follow despite twists and turns, it’s filled with mystery, makes kids think about things like “what would I do in this scenario?” “what does survival of the fittest mean?” etc. but isn't terribly heavy, has likeable characters, and gosh darn it if it isn’t exciting.  Plus, it has a cliffhanger, so it will trick your reluctant readers into reading MORE books (this is a trilogy, and the prequel will be released in mid-August).  Librarian coup!    

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